Includes Security, SRM, Cloud, ICM, SaaS, Business Intelligence, Data Warehouse, Database Appliances, NFM, Storage Management.
This section covers all forms of technologies that impact IT infrastructure management. Taneja Group analysts particularly focus on the interplay between server virtualization and storage, with and without virtualization, and study the impact on performance, security and management of the IT infrastructure. This section also includes all aspects of storage management (SRM, SMI-S) and the role of cross correlation engines on overall performance of an application. Storage virtualization technologies (In-band, Out-of-band, split path architectures or SPAID) are all covered in detail. Data Security, whether for data in-flight or at-rest and enterprise level key management issues are covered along with all the players that make up the ecosystems.
As databases continue to grow larger and more complex they present issues in terms of security, performance and management. Taneja Group analysts cover the vendors and the technologies that harness the power of archiving to reduce the size of active databases. We also cover specialized database appliances that have become the vogue lately. All data protection issues surrounding databases are also covered in detail. We write extensively on this topic for the benefit of the IT user.
This Field Report was created by Taneja Group for Nutanix in late 2014 with updates in 2015. The Taneja Group analyzed the experiences of seven Nutanix Xtreme Computing Platform customers and seven Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) Vblock customers. We did not ‘cherry-pick’ customers for dissatisfaction, delight, or specific use case; we were interested in typical customers’ honest reactions.
As we talked in detail to these customers, we kept seeing the same patterns: 1) VCE users were interested in converged systems; and 2) they chose VCE because VCE partners Cisco, EMC, and/or VMware were embedded in their IT relationships and sales. The VCE process had the advantage of vendor familiarity, but it came at a price: high capital expense, infrastructure and management complexity, expensive support contracts, and concerns over the long-term viability of the VCE partnership (see an opinion of the DELL/EMC merger at end of this document). VCE customers typically did not research other options for converged infrastructure prior to deploying the VCE Vblock solution.
In contrast, Nutanix users researched several convergence and hyperconvergence vendors to determine the best possible fit. Nutanix’ advanced web-scale framework gave them simplified architecture and management, reasonable acquisition and operating costs, and considerably faster time to value.
Our conclusion, based on the amount of time and effort spent by the teams responsible for managing converged infrastructure, is that VCE Vblock deployments represent an improvement over traditional architectures, but Nutanix hyperconvergence – especially with its web-scale architecture – is an big improvement over VCE.
This Field Report will compare customer experiences with Nutanix hyperconverged, web-scale infrastructure to VCE Vblock in real-world environments.
Hyperconvergence is one of the hottest IT trends going in to 2016. In a recent Taneja Group survey of senior enterprise IT folks we found that over 25% of organizations are looking to adopt hyperconvergence as their primary data center architecture. Yet the centralized enterprise datacenter may just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the vast opportunity for hyperconverged solutions. Where there are remote or branch office (ROBO) requirements demanding localized computing, some form of hyperconvergence would seem the ideal way to address the scale, distribution, protection and remote management challenges involved in putting IT infrastructure “out there” remotely and in large numbers.
However, most of today’s popular hyperconverged appliances were designed as data center infrastructure, converging data center IT resources like servers, storage, virtualization and networking into Lego™ like IT building blocks. While these at first might seem ideal for ROBOs – the promise of dropping in “whole” modular appliances precludes any number of onsite integration and maintenance challenges, ROBOs have different and often more challenging requirements than a datacenter. A ROBO does not often come with trained IT staff or a protected datacenter environment. They are, by definition, located remotely across relatively unreliable networks. And they fan out to the thousands (or tens of thousands) of locations.
Certainly any amount of convergence simplifies infrastructure making easier to deploy and maintain. But in general popular hyperconvergence appliances haven’t been designed to be remotely managed en masse, don’t address unreliable networks, and converge storage locally and directly within themselves. Persisting data in the ROBO is a recipe leading to a myriad of ROBO data protection issues. In ROBO scenarios, the datacenter form of hyperconvergence is not significantly better than simple converged infrastructure (e.g. pre-configured rack or blades in a box).
Riverbed’s SteelFusion we feel has brought full hyperconvergence benefits to the ROBO edge of the organization. They’ve married their world-class WANO technologies, virtualization, and remote storage “projection” to create what we might call “Edge Hyperconvergence”. We see the edge hyperconverged SteelFusion as purposely designed for companies with any number of ROBO’s that each require local IT processing.
Virtualization has matured and become widely adopted in the enterprise market. HyperConverged Infrastructure (HCI), with virtualization at its core, is taking the market by storm, enabling virtualization for businesses of all sizes. The success of these technologies has been driven by an insatiable desire to make IT simpler, faster, and more efficient. IT can no longer afford the time and effort required to create custom infrastructure from best-of-breed DIY components.
With HCI, the traditional three-tier architecture has been collapsed into a single system that is purpose-built for virtualization. In these solutions, the hypervisor, compute, storage, and advanced data services are integrated into an x86 industry-standard building block. The immense success of this approach has led to increased competition in this space and the customers are required to sort through the various offerings, analyzing key attributes to determine which are significant.
One of these competing vendors, Pivot3, was founded in 2002 and has been in the HCI market since 2008, well before the term HyperConverged was used. For many years, Pivot3’s vSTAC architecture has provided the most efficient scale-out Software-Defined Storage (SDS) system available on the market. This efficiency is attributed to three design innovations. The first is their extremely efficient and reliable erasure coding technology called Scalar Erasure Coding. Conversely, many leading HCI implementations use replication-based redundancy techniques which are heavy on storage capacity utilization. Scalar Erasure Coding from Pivot3 can deliver significant capacity savings depending on the level of drive protection selected. The second innovation is Pivot3’s Global Hyperconvergence which creates a cross-cluster virtual SAN, the HyperSAN: in case of appliance failure, a VM migrates to another node and continues operations without the need to divert compute power to copy data over to that node. The third innovation has been a reduction in CPU overhead needed to implement the SDS features and other VM centric management tasks. Implementation of the HCI software uses the same CPU complex as business applications, this additional usage is referred to as the HCI overhead tax. HCI overhead tax is important since the licensing cost for many applications and infrastructure software are based on a per CPU basis. Even with today’s ever- increasing cores per CPU there still can be significant cost saving by keeping the HCI overhead tax low.
The Pivot3 family of HCI products delivering high data efficiency with a very low overhead are an ideal solution for storage-centric business workload environments where storage costs and reliability are critical success factors. One example of this is a VDI implementation where cost per seat determines success. Other examples would be capacity-centric workloads such as big data or video surveillance that could benefit from a Pivot3 HCI approach with leading storage capacity and reliability. In this paper we compare Pivot3 with other leading HCI architectures. We utilized data extracted from the alternative HCI vendor’s reference architectures for VDI implementations. Using real world examples, we have demonstrated that with other solutions, users must purchase up to 136% more raw storage capacity and up to 59% more total CPU cores than are required when using equivalent Pivot3 products. These impressive results can lead to significant costs savings.
Decades of constantly advancing computing solutions have changed the world in tremendous ways, but interestingly, the IT folks running the show have long been stuck with only piecemeal solutions for managing and optimizing all that blazing computing power. Sometimes it seems like IT is a pit crew servicing a modern racing car with nothing but axes and hammers – highly skilled but hampered by their legacy tools.
While that may be a slight exaggeration, there is a serious lack of interoperability or opportunity to create joint insight between the highly varied perspectives that individual IT tools produce (even if each is useful in its own purpose). There simply has never been a widely adopted standard for creating, storing or sharing system management data, much less a cross-vendor way to holistically merge heterogeneously collected or produced management data together – even for the beneficial use of harried and often frustrated IT owners that might own dozens or more differently sourced system management solutions. That is until now.
OpsDataStore has brought the IT management game to a new level with an easy to deploy, centralized, intelligent – and big data enabled – management data “service”. It readily sucks in all the lowest level, fastest streaming management data from a plethora of tools (several ready to go at GA, but easily extended to any data source), automatically and intelligently relates data from disparate sources into a single unified “agile” model, directly provides fundamental visualization and analysis, and then can serve that unified and related data back out to enlightened and newly comprehensive downstream management workflows. OpsDataStore drops in and serves as the new systems management “nexus” between formerly disparate vendor and domain management solutions.
If you have ever been in IT, you’ve no doubt written scripts, fiddled with logfiles, created massive spreadsheets, or otherwise attempted to stitch together some larger coherent picture by marrying and merging data from two (or 18) different management data sources. The more sources you might have, the more the problem (or opportunity) grows non-linearly. OpsDataStore promises to completely fill in this gap, enabling IT to automatically multiply the value of their existing management solutions.
Nutanix XCP For Demanding Enterprise Workloads: Making Infrastructure Invisible for Tier-1 Ent. Apps
Virtualization has matured and become widely adopted in the enterprise market. Approximately three in every five physical servers are deployed in a virtualized environment. After two waves of virtualization, it is safe to assume that a high percentage of business applications are running in virtualized environments. The applications last to deploy into the virtualized environment were considered the tier-1 apps. Examples of these include CRM and ERP environments running SAP NetWeaver, Oracle database and applications, and Microsoft SQL Server. In many 24X7 service industries, Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint are also considered tier-1 applications.
The initial approach to building virtualized environments that can handle these tier-1 applications was to build highly tuned infrastructure using best of breed three-tier architectures where compute, storage and networking were selected and customized for each type of workload. Newer shared storage systems have increasingly adopted virtualized all flash and hybrid architectures, which has allowed organizations to mix a few tier-1 workloads within the same traditional infrastructure and still meet stringent SLA requirements.
Enter now the new product category of enterprise-capable HyperConverged Infrastructure (HCI). With HCI, the traditional three-tier architecture has been collapsed into a single software-based system that is purpose-built for virtualization. In these solutions, the hypervisor, compute, storage, and advanced data services are integrated into an x86 industry-standard building block. These modern scale-out hyperconverged systems combine a flash-first software-defined storage architecture with VM-centric ease-of-use that far exceeds any three-tier approach on the market today. These attributes have made HCI very popular and one of the fastest growing product segments in the market today.
HCI products have been very popular with medium sized companies and specific workloads such as VDI or test and development. After a few years of hardening and maturity, are these products ready to tackle enterprise tier-1 applications? In this paper we will take a closer look at Nutanix Xtreme Computing Platform (XCP) and explore how its capabilities stack up to tier-1 application workload requirements.
Nutanix was a pioneer in HCI and is widely considered the market and visionary leader of this rapidly growing segment. Nutanix has recently announced the next step - a vision of the product beyond HCI. With this concept they plan to make the entire virtualized infrastructure invisible to IT consumers. This will encompass all three of the popular hypervisors: VMware, Hyper-V and their own Acropolis Hypervisor. Nutanix has enabled app mobility between different hypervisors, a unique concept across the converged system and HCI alike. This Solution Profile will focus on the Nutanix XCP platform and key capabilities that make it suitable for teir-1 enterprise applications. With the most recent release, we have found compelling features appropriate for most tier-1 application workloads. Combined with the value proposition of web-scale modular architecture this provides an easy pathway to data-center transformation that businesses of all sizes should take advantage of.
Consolidation and enhanced management enabled by virtualization has revolutionized the practice of IT around the world over the past few years. By abstracting compute from the underlying hardware systems, and enabling oversubscription of physical systems by virtual workloads, IT has been able to pack more systems into the data center than before. Moreover, for the first time in seemingly decades, IT has also taken a serious leap ahead in management, as this same virtual infrastructure has wrapped the virtualized workload with better capabilities than ever before - tools like increased visibility, fast provisioning, enhanced cloning, and better data protection. The net result has been a serious increase in overall IT efficiency.
But not all is love and roses with the virtual infrastructure. In the face of serious benefits and consequent rampant adoption, virtualization continues to advance and bring about more capability. All too often, an increase in capability has come at the cost of complexity. Virtualization now promises to do everything from serving up compute instances, to providing network infrastructure and network security, to enabling private clouds.
For certain, much of this complexity exists between the individual physical infrastructures that IT must touch, and the simultaneous duplication that virtualization often brings into the picture. Virtual and physical networks must now be integrated, the relationship between virtual and physical servers must be tracked, and the administrator can barely answer with certainty whether key storage functions, like snapshots, should be managed on physical storage systems or in the virtual infrastructure.
Scale Computing, an early pioneer in HyperConverged solutions, has released multiple versions of HC3 appliances and now includes the 6th generation of Scale’s HyperCore Operating System. Scale Computing continues to push the boundary in regards to simplicity, value and availability that many SMB IT departments everywhere have come to rely on. HC3 is an integration of storage and virtualized compute within a scale-out building block architecture that couples all of the elements of a virtual data center together inside a hyperconverged appliance. The result is a system that is simple to use and does away with much of the complexity associated with virtualization in the data center. By virtualizing and intermingling compute and storage inside a system that is designed for scale-out, HC3 does away with the need to manage virtual networks, assemble complex compute clusters, provision and manage storage, and a bevy of other day to day administrative tasks. Provisioning additional resources - any resource - becomes one-click-easy, and adding more physical resources as the business grows is reduced to a simple 2-minute exercise.
While this sounds compelling on the surface, Taneja Group recently turned our Technology Validation service - our hands-on lab service - to the task of evaluating whether Scale Computing's HC3 could deliver on these promises in the real world. For this task, we put an HC3 cluster through the paces to see how well it deployed, how it held up under use, and what special features it delivered that might go beyond the features found in traditional integrations of discreet compute and storage systems.
While we did touch upon whether Scale's architecture could scale performance as well as capacity, we focused our testing upon how the seamless integration of storage and compute within HC3 tackles key complexity challenges in the traditional virtual infrastructure.
As it turns out, HC3 is a far different system than the traditional compute and storage systems that we've looked at before. HC3's combination of compute and storage takes place within a scale-out paradigm, where adding more resources is simply a matter of adding additional nodes to a cluster. This immediately brings on more storage and compute resources, and makes adapting and growing the IT infrastructure a no-brainer exercise. On top of this adaptability, virtual machines (VMs) can run on any of the nodes, without any complex external networking. This delivers seamless utilization of all datacenter resources, in a dense and power efficient footprint, while significantly enhancing storage performance.
Meanwhile, within an HC3 cluster, these capabilities are all delivered on top of a uniquely robust system architecture that can tolerate any failure - from a disk to an entire cluster node - and guarantee a level of availability seldom seen by mid-sized customers. Moreover, that uniquely robust, clustered, scale-out architecture can also intermix different generation of nodes in a way that will put an end to painful upgrades by reducing them to simply decommissioning old nodes as new ones are introduced.
HC3’s flexibility, ease of deployment, robustness and a management interface is the simplest and easiest to use that we have seen. This makes HC3 a disruptive game changer for SMB and SME businesses. HC3 stands to banish complex IT infrastructure deployment, permanently alter on-going operational costs, and take application availability to a new level. With those capabilities in focus, single bottom-line observations don’t do HC3 justice. In our assessment, HC3 may take as little as 1/10th the effort to setup and install as traditional infrastructure, 1/4th the effort to configure and deploy a virtual machine (VM) versus doing so using traditional infrastructure, and can banish the planning, performance troubleshooting, and reconfiguration exercises that can consume as much as 25-50% of an IT administrator’s time. HC3 is about delivering on all of these promises simultaneously, and with the additional features we'll discuss, transforming the way SMB/SME IT is done.